UTD Venture Development Center


Shared workspaces — WeWork, Common Desk, Serendipity Labs, etc. — have become de rigueur in the modern economy.

The University of Texas at Dallas’ (UTD) Venture Development Center takes the phenomenon a step further, with a shared workspace that includes full working wet laboratories, complete with chemical catch tanks and fume hoods, as well as dry labs.

“I think [other co-working spaces] really missed the boat on specialized labs or other types of equipment that people just can’t get access to,” says Paul Nichols, executive director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The center is part of the institute.

The center is also open to all UTD students and faculty, creating the potential for creative collisions.
“When you look at other universities and their corporate innovation and entrepreneurship program, it usually belongs to one college,” Nichols says. “We work with any department in the university. That’s a real strategic asset for the university. That’s where the center fits in; we have students and faculty across the campus who can use that space.”

The center has been the launch pad for numerous successful launches — among them, ophthalmic medical device maker Vital Art and Science LLC, which was purchased by Genentech, and Vigilant Labels, which developed a medication labeling system being used in more than 100 operating rooms in 14 hospitals.

More telling is the center’s rapidly expanding footprint since it opened in 2011: “We were at 10,000 square feet, with eight offices, and four labs,” says Kim Warren, manager of the center. “Then, we went to 15,000 square feet. Then, we added 10,000 square feet. After the next addition, we will be [at] 32,000 total square feet.”

Rent ranges between $125 per month and $1,000 per month.

But what in the world would an entrepreneur want with a wet or dry lab?

“Materials developers are developing their ‘goo’ — their word, not mine,” Warren says. “For the chemical [experimentation] processes. We have another [user] that’s biomedical, that uses the wet lab for the fume hood” [and chemical capture tanks.]

This article is part of the 2020 Higher Education Review Magazine.